“I’m from New Jersey; I don’t expect . . . too much.
If the world ended . . . I would adjust.”
Two Jersey boys play here this week, and the one just quoted is not Bruce Springsteen, who rocks the Times Union Center on Tuesday. It’s John Gorka, who plays quietly on Friday at the Eighth Step and is every bit as notable a talent.
Bruce expects everything, and the world better not dare end before he takes it over completely. He’s been The Boss ever since he lifted the Union College Memorial Chapel off its foundation with young rock ’n’ roll fun in his area debut in October 1974 — still one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen.
He expects to thunder down “Thunder Road” to “The Promised Land,” racing beside “The River” through the “Badlands,” outrunning the “State Trooper” past the outskirts of “Jungleland,” aiming for “Atlantic City” or “This Hard Land” of “Nebraska.”
He’s on fire with the “Spirit of the Night,” empowered by recognizing he was “Born in the U.S.A.,” convinced he was “Born to Run,” following his “Hungry Heart” through its own exultant “Tunnel of Love” to where “Rosalita” waits to go “Dancing in the Dark.” He’s out there where every night is the “4th of July, Asbury Park.”
We’ve watched Springsteen become his own myth as he and his band of shore-town vagabonds built a vast sound that operates like a hot rod, flames painted on the side, with room for everybody in the back seat. We’ve watched him play the Palace, SPAC and the Times Union Center, expanding that grinning glee he showed 40 years ago at the Union College Memorial Chapel. Back then, he led a soul band with a string section. Over time he’s steered them toward the Midwest, the middle of the road, of American taste. He also put it in the garage for solo and side-projects. That’s why it’s so cool that the E Street Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, though too late for deceased players Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici.
Last Saturday, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played Jazz Fest in New Orleans — Springsteen’s third, the E Street Band’s second. In 2006, the first Jazz Fest after Hurricane Katrina, Springsteen led his sprawling Sessions Band (originally the Seeger Sessions Band) in a show so uplifting, so powerful in its populist outrage, so real that my Jazz Fest runnin’ pardner Dennis in Northampton said it ranked among the finest and most passionate he’s ever seen.
Some are saying that same thing about Bruce’s Jazz Fest return on Saturday: a three-hour blast with car-radio classic songs spiced by newer tunes from “Wrecking Ball” and “High Hopes.” John Fogerty guested on “Green River” and “Proud Mary,” which recalled for me the night Springsteen played SPAC and used Fogerty’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain” as sound check and weather adjuster. You BETCHA it stopped the rain.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play the Times Union Center (51 S. Pearl St., Albany) on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., doors at 6:30. The show sold out.
If there were any justice, so would the Eighth Step show on Friday by that other Jersey boy, troubadour John Gorka. If Springsteen is the rock star prototype for his generation, Gorka is the model for New Folk singer-songwriters.
A decade younger than Springsteen, Gorka has released 12 studio albums, a few more if you count collaborations, to Springsteen’s 18. Gorka’s latest, “Brighter Side of Down,” features guest vocals from Lucy Kaplansky, Eliza Gilkyson, Claudia Schmidt and Michael Johnson. It’s 11 originals plus late friend Bill Morrissey’s “She’s That Kind of Mystery.”
Of these Jersey boys, Gorka has a better voice and more subtle songs, with a wider emotional palette than Springsteen. Show time for John Gorka is 7:30 p.m. on Friday at the Eighth Step at Proctors GE Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady). Mustard’s Retreat opens. Admission is $26, $35 front and center. 434-1703 346-6204 www.eighthstep.org www.proctors.org.
B.B. King earned mixed reviews recently at the Palace Theater but opener Rhett Tyler won wide praise. On Saturday, Tyler brings his Early Warning Band — drummer Bob Matheson and bassist Doug Howard — to the Van Dyck (237 Union St., Schenectady).
Tyler has released eight albums since 1993; his latest is “The Rhythm The Power the Blue.” Show time is 8 p.m., doors at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $10, advance; $14 on Saturday.
For a clearer picture of B.B. King — his humble early life on Mississippi farms, his struggle to develop his talent and career and the influence both have had on generations of blues and rock players since then — check out “B.B. King: The Life of Riley.” Directed by Jon Brewer and narrated by Morgan Freeman, this new two-hour biopic features B.B. speaking, remembering, playing and singing — and tons of interviews with multitudes of stars, and home folks who knew him as Riley B. King. It’s a strong, evocative portrait of a giant, shown in his full stature as artist and man.
Singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten plays tonight at 7 p.m. at the Iron Horse (20 Center St., Northampton, Mass. 413-586-8686 www.iheg.com; admission $15) and on Friday at 9 p.m. at Club Helsinki (405 Columbia St., Hudson. 828-4800 www.helsinkihudson.com; admission $15). It’s her first two dates on a tour behind her “Are We There” album, due later this month. Van Etten recently recorded Springsteen’s “Drive All Night” for a video with the A.V. Club. She Keeps Bees opens both shows.
Schenectady-born Steve Katz (Even Dozen Jug Band, the Blues Project, Blood Sweat & Tears) plays solo on Friday at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs), singing songs and telling tales stretching back to “Teenage Barn” on WRGB. Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $18, advance; $20 at the door. 583-0022 www.caffelena.org.
Also Friday, veteran folk giant Tom Rush sings at the Iron Horse. Show time is 7 p.m. Admission is $45.
Willie Nile rocks the Horse on Saturday at 7 p.m. Jefferson Grizzard opens. Admission is $17.50, advance; $20 at the door.
And, Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt) sings solo on Sunday at 8 p.m. at Club Helsinki. Peter Bruntnell opens. Admission is $20 standing, $25 table seating.
The Super Soul Fest Mother’s Day R&B Celebration on Sunday at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) features a strong, though altered, lineup: Glenn Jones is out, Christopher Williams is in; and Meli’sa Morgan and Lillo Thomas are still on this powerhouse bill. Admission is $65, $55, $45. 473-1845 www.theegg.org.
The Ottawa folk trio Finest Kind sings on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Old Songs (37 S. Main St., Voorheesville). Admission is $20, adults; $5, children 12 and under. 765-2815 www.oldsongs.org.
Reach Gazette Columnist Michael Hochanadel at email@example.com.